Moose Jaw Warriors centre Brett Howden has found some “extra motivation” to assert himself as a first-round talent this season. NHL Central Scouting Service ranked him as a B-list prospect, which is a player pegged to go in the second or third round, even though his enticing blend of elite offensive abilities, an imposing 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and strong work ethic led many to believe that he would fall into the A-list category.
“I don’t pay too much attention to rankings, but it’s for sure extra motivation,” says Howden, who tallied 22 goals and 46 points in 68 games last season. “The rankings change so much during the year that you can’t worry about that stuff. It’s just a little extra motivation to push harder this year.”
As the younger brother of Florida Panthers prospect and Warriors alumni Quinton Howden, the Oakbank, MB., native has had a close family member to lean on for advice during his young hockey career. He feels he owes a lot of credit to his brother for how far he has gotten on the ice.
“He’s been key in my career and is the reason why I am where I am today,” he says. “He’s always been there for me and has been helping me every step of the way. He’s talked to me about the draft and has told me there would be stuff said on social media and stuff and to just not worry about it. He told me to just block that stuff out and work hard and focus on what’s on the ice.”
Having an older brother who is a first-round NHL pick is a double-edged sword, though. Howden clearly benefits from his brother going ahead of him, but he’s also had to deal with living in his shadow.
“It used to be like that (being known as Quinton’s younger brother) when I was younger and it’s always probably going to be a little like that because he’s older than me,” says Howden, who has a goal and four points in three games this year. “And with me being in Moose Jaw, I am following in his footsteps, but I feel I have been developing my own reputation over the past couple of years and have been making a name for myself as my own player.”
There are, however, notable differences between the Howden brothers that separate them. The younger Howden thrives at slowing down the pace of the game while his brother plays a style that focuses on speed.
“He’s more about speed and skating down the ice with speed to create chances,” says Howden. “I like to slow down the pace of the game and use that to open up opportunities and create chances. I think that’s the biggest difference between us.”
1. What part of your game are you focused on improving this season?
“My defensive play for sure. I struggled a bit last year and didn’t have the best plus-minus (-31), so I want to improve on that. I’ve been playing in different situations this year and am focused on becoming a better player in my own end.
2. Is there an arena you look forward to playing in on the road?
“I’m looking forward to the U.S. road trip this year because I’ve heard they have great fans and it’s a great atmosphere. But going to Calgary and Edmonton was exciting last year because you’re playing in NHL arenas and the dressing rooms are great.”
3. Besides your brother, do you model your game after someone in the NHL?
“(San Jose Sharks centre) Joe Thornton. He’s a big power-forward who sees the ice well and slow down the game. I try to play like him.”
4. Do you have a favourite NHL team?
“I cheer for the Chicago Blackhawks and the Florida Panthers. Florida because of my brother and Chicago just because I like watching them play and am a big fan of Jonathan Toews.”
5. If you weren’t entrenched in hockey, what other sport would you pursue?
“Volleyball. I enjoyed playing it in high school, but stopped in Grade 9 when more time started going into hockey.”
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen